Netflix CEO Doubles Down On Defense Of Dave Chappelle In Email To Entire Company

chappelle the closer


  • Dave Chappelle’s newest Netflix special The Closer released on October 5.
  • The backlash to jokes Chappelle made about the LGTBQ community was immediate.
  • Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos has sent a memo to company employees defending Chappelle.

On Monday, we brought you the story of Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos sending a memo to Netflix staff that defended Dave Chappelle’s most recent stand-up special, The Closer.

In the original statement, Sarandos — who was appointed co-chief executive officer of the streaming giant in 2020 — Sarandos defended Chappelle’s right to “artistic freedom”:

“Externally, particularly in stand-up comedy, artistic freedom is obviously a very different standard of speech than we allow internally as the goals are different: entertaining people versus maintaining a respectful, productive workplace,” Sarandos’ statement read.

As a result of both Chappelle’s special and Sarandos’ response, trans employees at Netflix are planning a walkout on Wednesday, October 20.

On Thursday, Sarandos delivered another statement to Netflix staff in an email and once again defended Chappelle, saying that because the company’s goal is to “entertain the world”, they must provide “programming for a diversity of tastes.”

RELATED: Netflix CEO Defends Dave Chappelle And His Right To ‘Artistic Freedom’ In Letter To Staff

As for Chappelle, he doesn’t seem to remotely care about the backlash to The Closer, as he told a packed crowd at the Hollywood Bowl just days after the special released that, “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it.”

You can read Sarandos’ email to the company entirely below, via Variety:

We know that a number of you have been left angry, disappointed and hurt by our decision to put Dave Chappelle’s latest special on Netflix. Also, we have many new colleagues who want to better understand the principles that guide our team’s content choices, especially with challenging titles like this.

Our goal is to entertain the world, which means programming for a diversity of tastes. This member-centric view has driven our growth over the last 20 years, despite all the competition, and remains Netflix’s north star today. We also support artistic freedom to help attract the best creators, and push back on government and other censorship requests. Our Entertain the World and Strategy Bets memos, which we’ve debated extensively, are clear about both principles – including the trade offs, i.e. that we’ll always have titles some members and employees dislike or believe are harmful.

With The Closer, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.) Last year, we heard similar concerns about 365 Days and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.

The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last thirty years, especially with first party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries. Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others. We are working hard to ensure marginalized communities aren’t defined by a single story. So we have Sex Education, Orange is the New Black, Control Z, Hannah Gadsby and Dave Chappelle all on Netflix. Key to this is increasing diversity on the content team itself.

In his special, Chappelle makes harsh jokes about many different groups, which is his style and a reason his fans love his comedy and commentary. Stand-up comedians often expose issues that are uncomfortable because the art by nature is a highly provocative. As a leadership team, we do not believe that The Closer is intended to incite hatred or violence against anyone (per our Sensitive Content guidelines).

We’ve had these operating principles around pleasing our members and artistic expression for many years, and the team’s decision to put The Closer on our service was consistent with them. The variety and quality of our content is what members value most. Our hope is that you can be hugely inspired by entertaining the world, while also living with titles you strongly believe have no place on Netflix. This will not be the last title that causes some of you to wonder if you can still love Netflix. I sincerely hope that you can.

The Closer and Chappelle’s other Netflix stand-ups — The Age of Spin, Deep In The Heart of Texas, Equanimity, The Bird Revelation, Sticks & Stones, and 8:46 — are currently streaming.

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